Yes, You May Be Able to Enforce a Default Judgment from a Court Abroad in Florida Courts
Florida Statute Section 55.601 et seq. provides for the recognition of foreign money judgments. The first step in enforcing a foreign money judgment is to determine whether the judgment is final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered. See Fla. Stat. Sec. 55.603. According to Florida Stat. Sec. 55.604, an out-of-country foreign judgment meeting the requirements of s. 55.603 is conclusive between the parties to the extent that it grants or denies recovery of a certain sum of money. Case law provides that Florida courts are not required to refuse recognition of a judgment merely because the foreign judgment arose from a default by a defendant. See Chabert v. Bacquie, 694 So.2d 805 (1997).
According to Section 55.604, the procedures for recognition and enforceability of a foreign judgment are as follows:
(1) The foreign judgment shall be filed with the clerk of the court and recorded in the public records in the county or counties where enforcement is sought.
(a) At the time of the recording of the foreign judgment, the judgment creditor shall make and record with the clerk of the circuit court an affidavit setting forth the name, social security number, if known, and last known post-office address of the judgment debtor and of the judgment creditor.
(b) Promptly upon the recording of the judgment and the affidavit, the clerk of the court shall mail notice of the recording of the judgment, by registered mail with return receipt requested, to the judgment debtor at the address given in the affidavit and shall make a note of the mailing in the docket. The notice shall include the name and address of the judgment creditor and of the judgment creditor’s attorney in Florida. In addition, the judgment creditor may mail a notice of the recording of the judgment to the judgment debtor and may record proof of mailing with the clerk.
(2) The judgment debtor shall then have 30 days after service of the notice to file a notice of objection with the clerk of the court specifying the grounds for nonrecognition or nonenforceability under the Uniform Out-of-country Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act (“Act”).
(3) Upon the application of any party, and after proper notice, the circuit court shall have jurisdiction to conduct a hearing, determine the issues, and enter an appropriate order granting or denying recognition in accordance with the terms of the Act.
(4) If the judgment debtor fails to file a notice of objection within the required time, the clerk of the court will record a certificate stating that no objection has been filed.
(5) Upon entry of an order recognizing the foreign judgment, or upon recording of the clerk’s certificate set forth above, the foreign judgment will be enforced in the same manner as the judgment of a court in Florida.
(6) Once an order recognizing the judgment has been entered by a court of Florida, the order and a copy of the judgment may be recorded in any other county in Florida without further notice or proceedings, and shall be enforceable in the same manner as the judgment of a court of Florida.
(7) A lien on real estate in any county in Florida will be created only when there has been recorded in the official records of the county (a) a certified copy of the judgment, and (b) a copy of the clerk’s certificate or the order recognizing the out-of-country foreign judgment. The priority of such lien will be established as of the time the latter of the two recordings has occurred.
(8) A judgment lien on personal property is acquired only when a judgment lien certificate is filed with the Florida Department of State in accordance with Sec. 55.203.
If the judgment debtor files a notice of objection in response to the judgment creditor’s filing of the foreign judgment, the judgment debtor will need to assert one of the following arguments to allow for the non-recognition of the foreign judgment pursuant to Florida Statute Section 55.605, which sets for grounds for non-recognition of a foreign judgment:
(a) The defendant in the proceedings in the foreign court did not receive notice of the proceedings in sufficient time to enable him or her to defend;
(b) The judgment was obtained by fraud;
(c) The cause of action or claim for relief on which the judgment is based is repugnant to the public policy of Florida;
(d) The judgment conflicts with another final and conclusive order;
(e) The proceeding in the foreign court was contrary to an agreement between the parties under which the dispute in question was to be settled otherwise than by proceedings in that court; and/or
(f) In the case of jurisdiction based only on personal service, the foreign court was a seriously inconvenient forum for the trial of the action.
If the judgment debtor makes any of these objections a Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge will then hold an evidentiary hearing on the matter to determine whether the judgment will be enforced.
Want to know more about whether a foreign judgment in your favor or against you may be enforced in Florida? Call McKellar Poursine, PLLC to set-up a consultation at (305) 721-2954.